2008US Presidential Election
Presidentialelections in the United States occur after every four years wherebyvoters cast their ballots on the designated Election Day. Since 1845,the Election Day has been the Tuesday after the first Monday inNovember. Technically, it has always been considered an indirectprocedure where registered U.S. citizen voters cast ballots forelectors, who are members of the U.S. Electoral College. The electorsthen cast direct votes for the president and his deputy at theirparticular state capitals. Every state casts as many votes as thenumber of senators and House Representatives in Congress, thoughWashington D.C. has three votes. With nearly all electors pledging tovote for specific presidential candidates, the election outcome iseasily determined by popular vote. The candidate garnering theabsolute majority is elected to the office and in the case where nonereceives an absolute majority, the House of Representatives has tochoose the president, while the senate appoints the vice president.
Tuesday,November 4, 2008, was a historic day for the people of the UnitedStates, who following a campaign period of nearly two years, got thechance to elect their 44th president. Barrack Obama, a first-timeU.S. senator, and the pioneer African-American president ever in thecountry had won the elections alongside his running mate Joe Biden,the Delaware senator. The duo was up against Republican candidateJohn McCain, then Arizona senator, and his running mate Sarah Palin,the then-Alaska senator. Had the Republicans won the election, itwould also have been a first for America since John McCain would havebecome the oldest U.S. president elected to a first term, while SarahPalin would have been the first female vice leader in Americanhistory. The election, presenting many firsts in the history ofAmerica, witnessed the highest rate of voter turnout in a span offour decades, with the winning team garnering a whopping 53 percent(Jones and Vassallo 103). Thesis?
The2008 Nomination Process
BarackObama’s 2008 presidential campaign was first announced at aSpringfield, Illinois event on 10th February 2007. On 3rd June 2008,he was able to secure enough delegates, a step that saw him qualifyas the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party, becoming thefirst ever African-American to qualify for a nomination with a majorparty. The period leading up to 3rd June witnessed a fierce battlebetween Obama and Clinton as they sought the Democratic nomination.Overall, Clinton beat Obama by winning twenty primaries in comparisonto Obama’s nineteen, which included the larger states like NewYork, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Jersey (MillerCenter).
However,Obama had the upper hand owing to three critical advantages thateventually saw him eke out a victory in the process. The firstadvantage came as a result of his ability to contrast his constantdisapproval to the Iraq war with Clinton`s 2002 vote to permit it,and later going against it. Secondly, though there was minimalvariation between their major issues, Obama’s theme was centrallybased on change and Clinton’s on experience. During that electionyear, the economy was gradually weakening, and change seemed to bethe most workable theme, particularly amongst the Democrats. Thethird advantage was that in the process of battling Clinton in thethirty-nine primary elections Obama did not ignore the states thatchose their national convention participants through assemblies, forinstance, Iowa. Out of the seventeen in this category, he garneredfourteen out of the seventeen total caucuses, eventually coming ontop. On 7th June, Clinton withdrew from the nomination contest(Miller Center).
JohnMcCain’s 2008 presidential campaign was formally launched at anevent held on 25th April 2007. This was not his first candidacy forthe position as he had run for the party’s 2000 nomination and lostto then Texas Senator, George W. Bush. After garnering a majoritydelegates in the 2008 Republican primaries, McCain went ahead andselected Alaska’s Sarah Palin as his running mate for the post ofVice President on August 29. Barely a week later, on September 3, hewas formally selected as the 2008 Republican Party presidentialnominee at the Republican National Convention after garnering therequired 1, 191 delegates for the nomination. In line with the 22ndAmendment, the then sitting President George W. Bush could not runfor the 2008 presidency since he had already served two full terms inoffice, while Vice President Dick Cheney opted not to run. Later thatevening, Mick Huckabee announced his withdrawal, while McCain’slast remaining competitor withdrew on 12th June (Jones and Vassallo139).
Basedon McCain’s long tenure in the Senate and previous presidentialcandidature, he had acquired recognition prior to the 2008 election,sometimes being labeled as a political celebrity. In 2007, hesupported the presidential proposal for additional troops to bedeployed in the Iraq war, a step that proved a great success for him.McCain was also credited with sponsoring of major campaign andleadership in exposing the Abramoff Scandal. McCain’s service inthe military could not be overlooked and was considered one of hismajor achievements alongside the support he offered President Bush’s2004 re-election. He had also played major roles in confirming mostof Bush’s judicial nominees. Since the early 1990s, McCain servedthe International Republican Institute in the capacity of chairman.The organization, funded by the American government, is involved insupporting global democracy (Jones and Vassallo, 140).
The2008 General Election Campaign
Withthe end of the nomination process for both the Republicans andDemocrats in March 2008 and June 2008 respectively, time was ripe forthe onset of the presidential campaigns. Barack Obama first outlinedhis major election issues in his acceptance speech on theconvention’s final night. Among the promises he made, he wouldreduce taxes for 95 % of the working families, bring to an endAmerica’s reliance on the Middle East for oil, and invest heavily($150 billion) in renewable and affordable energy sources. Inaddition, his government would provide all citizens with affordableand easily accessible healthcare, and eliminate corporate loopholesand tax havens irrelevant in economic growth. Responsibly ending theIraq war and finishing the Afghanistan fight against Al Qaeda and theTaliban were also Obama’s strong political points, not to mentionhis promise to the gay and lesbian community to provide adiscrimination-free environment (Miller Center).
Thespeech momentarily stole the limelight from McCain, though heregained it by opting for Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate onthe same day. Sarah Palin was everything that McCain was not female,young, governor as opposed to a senator, and social conservative. Thesenator’s reform record in Alaska did not go unnoticed, and thiswent a long way in reinforcing McCain’s time-honored image as apolitical “maverick” destined for Washington. Her extremelymoving approval speech at the convention also propelled theRepublican ticket to lead over the Democrats in early September. Thislead was dramatically overturned in mid-September when the financialsector began taking a tailspin. At the time, the sector was heavilyinvested in risky mortgage based securities.
Thissituation needed a calm, confident and competent leader who offeredthe nation reassurance that all would be well eventually whilepromising some change in the country’s direction. Unlike McCain,Obama offered this to the voters during the three nationallytelevised presidential debates held between 26th September and 15thOctober, and he began to gain a lead. In his bid to eschew nationalcampaign funds, Obama managed to significantly outspend McCain ongrass-root organizing as well as on media advertising. Apparently,the choice of vice president by the two influenced the voter choice,as they seemed to consider Biden a more qualified pick than Palin.Her unacquaintedness with both national and global issues discoveredduring public interviews worked to McCain’s disadvantage,continually garnering additional support for the Democratic duo(Miller Center).
Asstated earlier, Obama’s campaign theme was centered on the need forchange. This idea was geared towards replacing the failed George Bushleadership with a Democrat, and change in the way things were run inWashington. For this to be effective, he had to link the Bushadministration failures and McCain, especially because they were bothaffiliated with the same party. To the voter, this meant that theyheld similar policy positions. In addition to this were the proposedchanges in public policy which included healthcare, economy, taxreforms and foreign policy. The fact that he had not been a member ofCongress before presented a great opportunity for him to be viewed asa change agent (ICPSR).
Inresponse, McCain attempted to distance himself from Bush byhighlighting instances when he was opposed to the president. He alsomade it clear that he wasn’t part of the administration. Inaddition, he could only do so much since this would alienate theRepublican base. His strategy was based on his experience andmaturity which made him suitable for the position, unlike Obama. Heused his lengthy political and military record to show his dedicationto public service, claiming that his dedication to America surpassedhis personal or party interests. On national security matters, McCaincategorically stated that he had adequate experience and that Obama’sexperience would prove to be dangerous for the nation if he waselected (Jones and Vassallo 137).
The2008 Presidential Election Results
OnNovember 4th, 2008, Barack Obama took the day when he won the UnitedStates presidential election to become the 44th American Presidentand the first African-American occupant of the White House. He beatRepublican John McCain by 53% to 46% in the federal prevalent vote.He also emerged victorious in the Electoral College with 365 votes toMcCain’s 173, thereby receiving the biggest popular vote percentagefor a Democrat candidate since 1964’s Lyndon B. Johnson. Analysisshowed that the candidates tallied amongst the voters who had takenpart in the 2004 polls. However, Obama attained a majority from 2008first time voters, most of them being younger voters and AfricanAmerican. While he carried the traditionally blue states in NortheastAmerica, the Pacific Coast, and the Great Lakes region, he also builton his majority by winning traditional red states including Colorado,North Carolina, Indiana, Florida, Virginia, and Ohio. Notably, Obamawas able to win all the 2004 swing states with a minimum of 8.5percent margin, with the exception of Ohio which the Democraticcandidate won by 4.5 percent (Federal Elections 2008).
Fig.1.Presidential election results map
Figure1 above represents the American 2008 election results, with reddenoting the states won by McCain/Palin, and bluedenotingthose won by Obama/ Biden. The numbers are indicative of theelectoral votes that were allotted to the winner in each of theindicated states.
Figure2. The 2008 U.S. Presidential Elections Swing by State
Thestates have been listed by percentage of democrat votes. They showhow the vote share changed between 2004 and 2008. From the figure,only five states trended more republican, in exception of thecandidates’ home states. They include West Virginia, Oklahoma,Arkansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma.
The2008 Texas vote was won by Republican nominee, John McCain, by an11.8 percent margin. He took almost every county in Eastern Texas -large regions which at one time had voted for Democrats. All thesuburbs in the major cities voted Republican by large margins ofdouble digits. King County, for instance, is a sparsely populatedcounty in Panhandle that gave McCain 92.64 percent of their vote,with Obama only receiving a paltry 4.91 percent. However, the majorcounties of Bexar, Dallas and Harris, home to San Antonio, Dallas andHouston cities respectively gave their vote to Obama. During theelection, a total of 8, 086, 952 votes were cast, with republicanJohn McCain garner 4, 479, 328 (55.39 %), and Democrat Barack Obamagetting 3, 528, 633 (43.63 %) votes (Federal Elections 2008).
FederalElections 2008. ElectionResults for the U.S. President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House ofRepresentatives.Web. http://www.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2008/federalelections2008.pdf.Accessed 7th November 2016.
ICPSR.CampaignThemes, Strategies, and Developments.Web.https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/instructors/setups2008/campaign-strategies.jsp.Accessed 7th November 2016
Jones,E. and Vassallo, S. The2008 Presidential Elections: A Story in Four Acts.New York. Palgrave MacMillan. 2009. Print.
MillerCenter. BarackObama: Campaigns and Elections.Web.http://millercenter.org/president/biography/obama-campaigns-and-elections.Accessed 7th November 2016
Panagopoulos,C. Strategy,Money and Technology in the 2008 Presidential Election.New York. Routledge. 2012. Print